I'm a believer in growth stocks. As an analyst for our Motley Fool Rule Breakers service, I think you should be a believer, too. But even I have to admit some growth stories are bogus, hence this regular series.
Next up: lululemon athletica (Nasdaq: LULU ) . Is this upscale retailer of women's athletic apparel the real thing? Let's get right to the numbers.
|CAPS stars (out of 5)||*|
|Bullish pitches||74 out of 113|
|Highest rated peers||V.F. Corp., Coach, Polo Ralph Lauren|
Data current as of Oct. 20.
Most investors seem to think lululemon is priced for crazy, and they may be right. The stock trades for 39 times trailing normalized earnings and 36 times next year's consensus estimate. But is that enough to keep from owning what appears to be a great business? Not all Fools agree.
"The only thing that I can knock this company for is the current price. That's it. Yeah, it's higher than I'd like it to be, but clearly a lot of other people are either totally insane (in this market, NOT impossible), or there's something more," Foolish investor RidgebackHero wrote last month.
The elements of growth
Last 12 Months
|Normalized net income growth||124.0%||40.9%||17.5%|
|Shares outstanding||70.9 million||70.5 million||69.9 million|
Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.
Put me in the "there's something more" camp. The numbers in this table are just too delicious to resist. Let's review:
- First, normalized net income isn't just growing, it's growing at an accelerated pace. Growth like that is often worth paying for.
- Revenue growth mostly follows the same pattern, and tends to rise faster than receivables. Revenue growth has also outpaced inventory growth in each of the last two years. This is awesome performance in a critical area; no retailer wants to be left holding unwanted inventory.
- Rising gross margin indicates lululemon's premium pricing strategy remains intact, another good sign.
- And finally, shares outstanding have kept stable as existing cash flow continues to fund operations. (Lululemon produced $102 million in free cash flow over the trailing 12 months.)
Competitor and peer checkup
Normalized Net Income Growth (3 years)
|bebe stores (Nasdaq: BEBE )||Not measurable|
|Finish Line (Nasdaq: FINL )||28.3%|
|Nike (NYSE: NKE )||4.6%|
|Under Armour (NYSE: UA )||10.9%|
Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Data current as of Oct. 20.
No competitor gets close to lululemon in terms of historical growth, and with analysts now estimating the company will improve earnings by 26% annually for the foreseeable future, it's doubtful they'll gain ground soon.
Lululemon has the look of a Rule Breaker in the making. It possesses a definable niche (i.e., chic athletic gear for active moms), pricing power, strong cash flow, and has no need to dilute existing investors. Only the price is scary, but not frightening enough to keep me from rating the stock to outperform in my CAPS portfolio.
Now it's your turn to weigh in. Do you like lululemon athletica at these levels? Let the debate begin in the comments box below. You can also ask Tim to evaluate a favorite growth story by sending him an email, or replying to him on Twitter.